Johanna De Paredes, International Trade Centre, Geneva, headed up a press conference for the Meet in Africa event which is next due to be held in Tunis in October 2002. It was held during Tanning Tech in Bologna in a room provided by Assomac and was organised by the SIC Group.

She said that there were three noteworthy elements to the meeting:

* It was the first time for Meet in Africa that French and Italian representatives sat at the same table as the multilateral UN agency

* It was the first time the president of AFLAI, together with the rest of the ten-member AFLAI executive committee (two per African sub-region) had been seen publicly together

* It was announced that the three UN organisations which are involved in the leather industry are to undertake joint projects under a multilateral international cooperation agreement to help with the development of the leather industry in Africa

This initiative has resulted in a coordinated cost-effective action:

* FAO/ITC/CFC – raw material level

* UNIDO/ITC – industrial development

* ITC – market and marketing development

The first phase of the new partnership of

ITC/FAO/CFC will result in a workshop during MIA 2002 on hides and skins and leather from Africa; essential action to meet quality requirements of importers.

In order to understand the importance of this project, it is necessary to look at the relevant figures. According to UNECA, trading losses in the leather sector in Africa, are estimated at $4 billion annually.

These losses are broken down as follows:

* Non-collection of hides and skins – $400 million

* Downgraded – low quality of hides and skins and leather – $400 million

* Trade in low value added products – $3.2 billion

In September, the ITC submitted a project proposal to the CFC through the FAO for funding consideration. The project is under study and hopefully could initiate the first phase of the project in close coordination with local experts and national authorities and professional associations such as ESALIA and AFLAI.

A mission of the president of AFLAI and a leather expert to several selected African countries in the five sub-regions, will be financed by the ITC. The objective of this mission is to promote AFLAI’s activities, strengthen its presence among the African leather business community and expand its links with the sub regional and national associations.

It will analyse the results of the two preceding MIAs in terms of intra-African trade and trade with the rest of the world and look at: intra-African and international trade; joint ventures/technology transfer possibilities; a training exchange programme; quality control.

Further, it will gather specific suggestions for the subsequent MIA events: evaluate the perspectives for MIA 2004 and its future sustainability; and make a proposal for a realistic cooperation project between the training centres of various African countries.

The results of this mission, in the form of project proposals, will be presented during the General Assembly in Tunis for approval and implementation.

A mission of experts to Africa will be funded by ICE/Assomac and will be realised in cooperation with AFLAI and in close coordination with the ITC. The objective of the mission is assessment of needs by selected country and proposals on the corresponding necessary actions.